Self-realization as revealed in art, symbol & sacred text: the archetypes of Carl Jung & the lore of enlightenment
At origin, at basis, there is no thought, no language. Something is, but we cannot name it. All we can fathom is that it is the ground of life: essential to life, yet unsayable, unspeakable. It, unfathomable, gives birth to soul.
The earliest form of language is imagination. Imagination presents a kaleidoscopic array of forms and images, expressing emergent awareness. Through imagination the soul first becomes conscious of itself and of other things outside itself. Jung says:
“This creative urge explains the bewildering confusion, the kaleidoscopic changes and syncretistic regroupings, the continual rejuvenation, … We move into a world of fantasies which, untroubled by the outward course of things, well up from an inner source to produce an ever-changing succession of plastic or phantasmal forms.” (CW 5, para. 24).
As the soul develops it becomes aware of itself and the world through a mythical language. In the biblical tradition it is said: “The Word Became Flesh – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).
When aligned with the Word, the soul begins to weave narrations and myths which tell of life and the soul’s relationship to life. Words become the “creative power” of the soul (Jung, CW 5, para. 24, 176). Jung says:
“The naive man of antiquity saw the sun as the great Father of heaven and earth and the moon as the fruitful Mother. Everything had its demon, was animated like a human being, or like his brothers the animals. Everything was conceived anthropomorphically or therimorphically, in the likeness of man or beast. Even the sun’s disk was given wings or little feet to illustrate its motion” (Jung, CW 5, para 24)
Myth tells stories of the soul becoming conscious within the world: “men go forth, and admire lofty mountains and broad seas, and roaring torrents” (cited in Jung fn. 21). The soul struggles to know itself and its world; myth tells of such struggle.
Through myth, the soul becomes aware of itself– as a Self. This is the story of the hero. The hero is a metaphor for the Self, for subjective awareness of the Self.
The Self must develop a language of Self, a language which describes the Self. The Self realizes “I am of this world, but not of this world.” Metaphysics is born.
With metaphysical knowledge, the soul realizes the potential to think of and speak to the Self beyond the physical world.
Metaphysics brings with it abstraction. Abstraction takes that which is essential and turns it into a general idea or quality. Language transforms active, relational knowing into “a conceptual scheme” (Wundt, cited in Jung, fn 22), a kind of fixed “known”.
Abstract language “designates… general concepts” (ibid). Such conceptual schemes and general concepts mirror a world. The are not real in and of themselves, but are mirrors of the real capable of being “applied in a uniform manner to the most varied problems” (ibid.)
Language shifts from a language of the Self to a system of abstractions– a copy system. Jodl makes this quite clear:
“Language is the register of tradition, the record of racial conquest , the deposit of all the gains made by the genius of individual. The social “copy-system” thus established reflects the judgmental processes of the race, and in turn becomes the training school of the judgment of new generations” (Jodl, cited in Jung, CW 5, para 15).
The Self begins to transform through abstraction, knowing its Self in abstract terms. The Self becomes an object to itself, a copy of itself, designating a general concept for itself.
The Self splits within itself, mirroring itself through it own abstraction. The Self mirrors itself as ‘I’. The Self calls itself ‘I’ as an abstraction.
The Latin word for ‘I’ is ‘Ego.’ The ego’s abstraction creates a conceptual scheme about itself capable of being applied in a uniform manner, allowing it to adapt itself to a collective reality. Each Self surrenders its own subjectivity and becomes part of a social “copy-system.”
The soul’s metaphysical and mythic speech sinks into the hidden recesses of the unconscious: the two forms of thinking are born. Jung says:
“We have, therefore, two kinds of thinking: directed thinking, and dreaming or fantasy-thinking. The former operates with speech elements for the purpose of communication, and is difficult and exhausting; the latter is effortless, working as it were spontaneously, with the contents ready to hand, and guided by unconscious motives. The one produces innovations and adaptation, copies reality, and tries to act upon it; the other turns away from reality, sets free subjective tendencies, and, as regards adaptation, is unproductive” (para. 20).
Speech expresses a split within the Self. The egoic mind speaks a language of abstraction, objectification, and adaptation. While the soul speaks a language of subjective reality, of dreams and imagination.
Self-realization is the unification of the Self. In Self-realization we seek to know the Self beyond abstraction. We seek to know the Self beyond the copy-system.